Content Warning: This pressbook includes a few pages in which Eddie Cantor appears in blackface. While this practice is reprehensible and was criticized even during the era of the film's release, it is important that we not ignore the racist side of United Artists' (and the rest of the entertainment industry's) history in this collection; Cantor, one of the two most popular performers of the day who regularly utilized blackface, made multiple films for UA.
Even more importantly, however, it is vital that contemporary disapprobation toward practices like blackface not blind us to the significant (and often devastating) experiences of Black entertainers and entertainment industry figures of this era. On August 14, 1954, the Chicago Defender ran a story by Enoch P. Waters about Bert Williams, an extremely popular Black comedian active from 1893 until his death in 1922, at the age of 47. In this story, Williams (who often performed in blackface himself) was dining alone in his Chicago hotel room when he was visited by Eddie Cantor. Asked by Cantor why he was eating alone, Williams replied, "Bert Williams, the black face comedian on-stage is one person, but Bert Williams, the man off-stage is a Negro -- and there's nothing funny about being a Negro in this country."
Discussion of even the most terrible aspects of the United States' history, if approached thoughtfully, can make us listen to the voices and experiences of individuals like Bert Williams. Presenting this pressbook here is an effort to acknowledge the pernicious practices of Hollywood past and present, as well as to highlight the need for greater awareness of the Black performers--and Black audiences--who have always been a integral component of the entertainment industry. (The story above, titled "Adventures in Race Relations: The Unfunny Bert Williams," was found via the ProQuest Historical Newspapers: Chicago Defender database.)
Pressbook for the film Kid Millions, starring Eddie Cantor, Ann Sothern, and Ethel Merman.